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Stereotypical Nerd

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A prominent Stock Character of teen comedies of the '70s and '80s, the Stereotypical Nerd is a specific kind of nerd or geek character that has the following characteristics:

While this last quality lends itself to many Stereotypical Nerds also being highly intelligent (and many are Book Smart, Teen Geniuses, TV Geniuses, or Insufferable Geniuses) equally prominent is the character being just of average intelligence or outright Book Dumb to emphasize their loser status and myopic focus on their hobbies, since intelligence and academic success are laudable and can be attractive. And don't think that the lack of Book Smarts would be replaced with Street SmartsNerds Are Naïve, after all.

This character has become somewhat less popular in recent years due to the mainstreaming of once niche interests associated with them like gaming, anime and manga, and comic book-based media and the astronomical success of real life "nerds" like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. The rise of other depictions of nerds, specifically the Basement-Dweller and the Tech Bro, has also contributed to this character's fading ubiquity, at least as purely a comedic and flat stock character.

For other takes on the nerd or geek, see Asian and Nerdy, Bollywood Nerd, Black and Nerdy, Jewish and Nerdy, Occidental Otaku, Otaku, Sickly Neurotic Geek, Trekkie, and Yaoi Fangirl. Also related are Rail Enthusiast, Polka Dork, Nerdcore, and Give Geeks a Chance.


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    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • Archie Comics: Dilton Doiley is a short character who wears nerd glasses, loves science and isn’t nearly as romantically successful as any of the other characters in addition to being the least athletic of them and prone to sesquipedalian loquaciousness. Dilton is also the smart guy of the Archie gang.
  • Kunskapens Korridorer: "Hjärnan" is clearly the smartest student in the class of 8C, to the point that his nick-name means "The Brain". And he also looks like a stereotypical nerd, with glasses and a more conservative dressing style.
  • Spider-Man: Peter Parker. A scientific genius from a young age, rather milquetoast from being raised by a loving but elderly couple, and in early appearances socially inept and unfashionable. In his subsequent appearances, though he's gotten Progressively Prettier and more confident, he's retained most of his gadget geek, Science Hero nerdiness.
  • Wonder Girl: Cassie Sandsmark started out fairly nerdy—not spending any time concerned about her appearance and clothing, being very interested in history and feeling awkward in most social situations—but she grew out of this characterization.

  • Back to the Future: In the original timeline, Marty's father George is a meek and introverted adult who wears Nerd Glasses, has slicked down, side-parted hair, wears a button down and tie with a pocket-protector. When Marty goes back in time, he realizes that his dad has always been this way, on top of being an Extreme Doormat and a Bully Magnet who is picked on by Biff and struggles to talk to his crush Lorraine. This does change though as Marty teaches George to stand up for himself.
  • Cloak & Dagger (1984): The proprietor of the Game Keeper is an overweight, bearded man with Nerd Glasses who spends most of his time playing video games and requesting Twinkies.
  • The Faculty: Casey is small, thin, and pale, frequently bullied and considered uncool, timid and not one to stand up for himself (until his Character Development). He is also The Smart Guy of the group, correctly deducing the alien invasion occuring.
  • Napoleon Dynamite: Napoleon isn't particularly smart or hard-working, but has all the cornerstones of a stereotypical nerd—No Social Skills, awkward posture, mouth breathing, a nasally voice, eccentric habits, thick Nerd Glasses, crappy fashion sense, and being very unpopular at school.
  • Revenge of the Nerds: Unsurprisingly, the "nerds" in the title, showcased best by leads Lewis and Gilbert, are walking stereotypes: poorly dressed in button downs, khakis, loafers, with Nerd Glasses; unpopular as shown by their inability to get accepted by any of the frats; constantly bullied by the popular Jerk Jocks who run those frats; computer science majors who use their wits to outplay and outhink the Alpha Betas, etc.
  • Summer School: Alan is average looking, an academic underachiever in a family of overachievers, has poor social skills, and speaks in a high, weird voice.
  • The White Orchid: Claire is a shy and modest detective who begins the film with wireframe glasses, hair in a bun, and plain clothes. When she takes on The White Orchid's style, this changes entirely.

  • Johnny and the Bomb: Note the Geeky Wobbler's ambitions which invokes the trope: "Wobbler wanted to be a nerd, but they wouldn't let him join. He wanted to be the kid in a deformed anorak and milk-bottom glasses who designs killer software and is a millionaire at thirty. Failing that he'd settle for being someone whose computer didn't smell of burning plastic whenever he touched it."

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Big Bang Theory: The show is premised on the idea of two nerdy guys and their two nerdy friends interacting with the Brainless Beauty / Book Dumb, Girl Next Door, Penny. So naturally, most of the main cast fits this to a T, with the exception of Penny and later-addition Bernadette, who is a subversion. The rest of the group are all different degrees and variations on the trope, with the main four guys being wimpy, unathletic, Trekkies, comic book and video game nerds, into LARPing, Dungeons and Dragons, and The Lord Of The Rings, in addition to their math and science focused areas of expertise with a very Limited Wardrobe.
  • Boy Meets World: Stuart Minkus, an Insufferable Genius with Nerd Glasses and a bowl cut, who wears button down shirts tucked into belted khakis and sweater-vests as a 12-year-old. In the episodes he shows up, he is often the Butt-Monkey to Shawn and Corey, who make fun of his nerdiness whenever he gets too arrogant with them.
  • Cheers: "Let Me Count the Ways" introduces Marshall, a computer scientist from MIT. Marshall is a nerd straight out of central casting, with the slicked-back hair and the impossibly thick, large Nerd Glasses, the nasal voice, and the technobabble talk. He is pretty comfortable in his own skin however and good friends with everyone else at the bar.
  • Family Matters' Steve Urkel is the poster child for a Black and Nerdy version of this trope. He wears Nerd Glasses, speaks with Nerdy Nasalness, has an obnxious laugh, wears plaid shirts tucked into slacks with suspenders, is a TV Genius, a Bully Magnet, and is considered in-universe to be unattractive and annoying. That's not even mentioning him thinking of himself as a smooth ladies man, when he's anything but.
  • iCarly: Freddie starts the series as a stereotypical nerd. He's the show's cameraman and general tech guy due to his natural high intelligence and interest in anything having to do with tech. He also dressed primarily in sweater vests and button down shirts due to his overbearing mother dictating what he wears. He was also a Hopeless Suitor to Carly. And though the trio's popularity was kept afloat by their successful web show, Freddie was the show's primary Butt-Monkey, suffering from constant bullying and abuse from Sam. When his actor goes through puberty later in the series and the actor's good looks become hard to ignore, he moves away from the trope and ends up more as a normal teen with some more tech-y interests.

  • "Weird Al" Yankovic has an entire song parodying this trope called "White & Nerdy". According to the song, too white and nerdy to hang out with gangsters because he's an MIT grad, wears braces, a pocket protector, and Uncool Undies, and has a slew of nerdy interests like Dungeons & Dragons, Star Trek, LARPing, math, science, chess, and tech.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Psionics: The Next Stage in Human Evolution: Ian, Tim, and Chance were unpopular, uncool, and frequently bullied before being awakened. They still are, to varying degrees. Tim is definitely the most straight example of the three. Everything about him, from his clothing to his haircut to his taste in music to the way he carries himself, is painfully awkward and uncool. He even has coke bottle glasses.

    Video Games 
  • Bully: The Nerds are one of the four main cliques within Bullworth Academy. They can mostly be found in and around the library, and they have a stronghold in the observatory near the football field. Outside of the school, they often meet up in the basement of the comic book shop for games of Grottos and Gremlins. Their combat skills are, as you would expect, sorely lacking compared to most other students, and they often find themselves getting picked on, though they tend to arm themselves with stink bombs and other such weapons in a bid to level the playing field.
  • Gauntlet: The Third Encounter: Lampshaded. You can pick "Nerd" as your class and your character will bedressed in the stereotypical style (glasses, sweater vestt) and carries a textbook with him. He's effectively a Joke Character, as he has the lowest Strength and Missile stats, and only marginally better Speed than some other options.
  • Monster Madness: Skinny, bespectacled, and buck-toothed Zack is the most brilliant student at school. Though he has few friends, many students turn to him for help with homework and his mechanical expertise; others give him wedgies. He is a fanboy for comic books, action figures, video games, and fantasy movies, and hopes to someday introduce his crush, Carrie, to his collections.
  • Mother:
  • In No Umbrellas Allowed, the man from the Ajik Capital and his identical twin brother look very nerdy, with short blonde hair, Nerd Glasses, buck teeth, and plain buttoned-down shirts. They also speak with a nasally voice liiike thiiisss.

    Web Animation 

  • Ménage à 3: Gary is a geek with strong nerd tendencies. In fact, he'd probably end up as a full-on hikikomori if he didn't have some good friends, Endearingly Dorky looks, and a strange sexual talent. His geeky lack of social skills veers towards nerdish total incompetence, and at the start of the comic, he'd collapse totally if an attractive woman so much as looked at him. He wants to have friends and lovers, but didn't have a clue how to get them to start with, and even in later strips he displays a painful lack of initiative in pursuing his options. However, his friends didn't have to clean him up much to produce quite appealing results.
  • Nerd & Jock: The aforementioned Nerd is a nerd, being a very intelligent and adorable-looking kid who is also an Otaku who collects action figures and watches anime. He's also quite scrawny and physically weak, something he occasionally mulls over, which is why he took up weight-lifting.
  • Questionable Content: Marigold is a pimply MMORPG-addicted Occidental Otaku and Yaoi Fangirl with dirty hair and a messy apartment. Interestingly, she has fluctuated on both spectrums of Geek Physique, starting off as being skinny and scrawny but changing overtime to be chubby. She is socially awkward, especially around guys she has crushes on, and lacks self-confidence, frequently stating that she's ugly and fat.
  • Sluggy Freelance: The "cloner nerds" release a plague that exponentially increases the intelligence of whoever it infects, while decreasing their attractiveness and social skills to the point where they become extremely nerdy zombie analogues, invoking the trope.
  • Sticky Dilly Buns: Ruby is a non-standard example who looks more like a Hot Librarian at first glance. She's quite attractive in Hollywood Homely style, her social ineptitude takes the form of abrasiveness rather than bumbling, she doesn't seem very interested in science or computers (her degree is in Business Administration), and we have no evidence about her physical fitness. However, she wears Nerd Glasses, is very opinionated about her area of expertise, lacks any kind of coolness (she's downright neurotic), rarely dates and is a virgin, and privileges intellect over social relationships.

    Web Video 
  • LG15: the resistance: "Bad Decision?" features "the sexy nineteen-year-old fact finder also known as... Research Nerd!" This is actually Sarah invoking the trope with Nerd Glasses, a collared shirt and tie, and her hair tied back in a ponytail.
  • Ryan ToysReview: Peck the Penguin is portrayed as a stereotypical glasses-and-bow tie nerd. This is played straight explicitly in this Combo Panda video:
    Peck: We're going to read so many books. Do you have an encyclopedias, please? I love—
    Combo: PECK, NO! You're going to come over to my house. We are NOT going to be reading books, we're playing video games, okay?!

    Western Animation